Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Current Cinema 18.4

The King

Eugene Jarecki's "The King" is a progressive and invigorating rolling roadshow of the halls and faces of America. Oh, and its about Elvis, too. Driving his now infamous Rolls Royce car from his birth place in Mississippi to his final days in Las Vegas, Jarecki has much more on his mind than celebrity-icon-mythmaking-enshrinment, opening the film up to become a leftist meditation on the decline of America. Utilizing interviews from musicians, actors and normal everyday folk just striving to survive, "The King" mixes these verbal cues with found footage and movie clips of Elvis to fashion a perfect film for our truly screwed up times. Hearing Ethan Hawke tell stories about Colonel Tom Parker's iron-fisted control of Elvis or seeing John Hiatt become emotional in the backseat because he can feel how "trapped" Elvis was are powerful moments, but Jarecki makes sure to overshadow these louder tales by focusing on the anonymous and common faces of the people he picks up hitchhiking or who wonder aloud why our country has left them so far behind. It's an amazing feat. I'd venture to call Jarecki the closest thing we have to 'outlaw documentarians' like Travis Wilkerson, Adam Curtis and Bill Morrison.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot

Gus Van Sant's adaptation of John Callahan's memoir about his struggle with alcoholism and subsequent disability is just as morose as it sounds. Tough subject matter, of course, but it's also a film full of inspired performances, especially Joaquin Phoenix as Callahan and Jonah Hill as the AA mentor who helps lift the cartoonist from his self pity and depression. Also giving a stellar performance is Jack Black. Beginning as someone just as over-the-top and loud as Black's usual on-screen persona, the later meeting between him and Phoenix is an emotional stunner, emphasizing what's unsaid rather than said. Van Sant films the entire affair in a no frills fashion, understanding and accepting that the performances are what raise the film above standard Lifetime Channel mediocrity. If there's one fault, its that the female performance of Rooney Mara as Callahan's girlfriend feels clipped and undercooked, as if its a boys club matter and nothing else.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

There are no grandstanding moments. There are very few revelatory plot twists. Even a suicide attempt is kept off-screen, choosing to show a blindingly pristine white bathroom sink and tile stained with pools of blood as the post-visual proof to an extreme act of apathy. All of this is why "The Miseducation of Cameron Post" is an important film and a staggering continuation for a filmmaker like Akhavan who chooses to reveal things via subtle moments and strong character development rather than loud, sweeping arches. Full review at Dallas Film Now

Mission Impossible: Fallout  

I'm surprised by everyone's coronation of Christopher McQuarrie staging some pretty phenomenal action set pieces. Has no one seen "The Way of the Gun" which is pretty much one of the best action films of the last 30 years? Anyway, this latest installment is pretty good, especially in Dolby IMAX.

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